We used metabolomics to study the changes that occur when overweight people are treated with leptin
The hormone leptin is a key regulator of weight. Children who lack leptin (due to changes in the leptin gene) have a very large appetite and rapidly gain weight. After treatment with leptin injections, they can lose weight. We know that leptin works by reducing their appetite, but here we wanted to find out if leptin can affect other metabolic processes around the body too.
Recently, we used a cutting-edge technique called metabolomics to simultaneously measure more than 600 metabolic reactions in a single blood sample taken from children and young adults before and after a short period of leptin treatment. We found that leptin not only caused big shifts in how the body processes fats, but it affected a amino acids (which make proteins), bile acids (which can act as cell signals) and steroids (involved in making hormones). These changes overlapped with the changes we discovered previously in healthy adults after a period of fasting.
Our findings show that as well as affecting how much food we eat, leptin affects other aspects of our metabolism. This research paves the way for further research into leptin’s action on different cells in the human body.